PhD candidate: serum (auto)antibody variable domain characterization (1.0 FTE)

PhD candidate: serum (auto)antibody variable domain characterization (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
27 Feb 17 Mar Utrecht

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Be part of our lab team! Developing and applying cutting-edge technology for in-depth characterization of variable domains of circulating IgGs from serum.

Job description

In the role of PhD candidate you will work as a member of the team in our lab that is developing and applying cutting-edge technology to study the variable domains of serum immunoglobulins. You will be enrolled specifically in a project funded by the Institute for Chemical Immunology (ICI) on 'Personalized profiling of patient serum autoantibodies linked to rheumatoid arthritis'. The aim of the project is to develop a mass spectrometry (MS)-based quantitative assay for antibody clonality screening. Using  top-down and middle-down MS approaches you will address several immunological research goals to better understand the evolution of auto-immunity before and during disease, as well as outcome of treatments of individual patients.

Finding ways to handle the sample complexity and boosting sensitivity in sample preparation, measurements, and data analysis will be part of the technical challenges. You will also be translating the data to improved understanding of immunological processes which may be involved in the origin of auto-immunity. In the project you will closely collaborate with another PhD candidate who will be hired at the Department of Rheumatology at Leiden University Medical Center, working on the core cellular immunology and genetics aspects of the project. Regular interdisciplinary meetings will take place.

After the completion of the project you will be highly qualified in basic and advanced biochemistry methods, mass spectrometry, and immunology. The training will be focused on a rheumatoid arthritis application, but is generally applicable in any biomedical and biopharmaceutical setting.


Utrecht University


  • You possess either a strong background in immunology, with interest in mass spectrometric approaches, or with a background in mass spectrometry and interest in unravelling some of the fundamental processes in immunology.
  • You have a Master's degree in Biomedical Sciences, Analytical Chemistry, or related.
  • You are highly motivated, and capable of working both independently as well as in a team.
  • You have excellent communication skills.
  • Basic or advanced scripting expertise provides a selection advantage.

Conditions of employment

  • A position for 4 years;
  • Full-time gross salary ranging from €2,325 to €2,972 in scale P;
  • Benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • Pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.


The Heck-group, which consists at present of around 60 people, is embedded in the Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research of the Department of Chemistry, and in the Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences of the Department of Pharmacy. Of all the people working in the group about 50% is Dutch. The international flavour of the group is evident from the students and Postdocs in the group from Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Switzerland, Russia, China and Malaysia. The core research theme of the group is the development of advanced mass spectrometric methods (e.g. native and cross-linking MS, (glyco)proteomics, etc.) to apply to biological research questions, such as antibody and B cell biology, glycobiology, cancer drug resistance, etc.

The Institute for Chemical Immunology (ICI) is a collaboration between a number of internationally-renowned Dutch research groups specialising in immunology, chemical biology, structural biology, proteomics (protein research) and drug development. The ICI works on a unique research programme which combines chemistry and immunology to diagnose and treat diseases related to immune system failure via new, targeted chemical compounds. Besides research, education is a core activity at the ICI. PhD candidates and Postdocs working on ICI projects are given interdisciplinary training to provide them with a greater range of approaches in order to connect chemistry and immunology.

At the Faculty of Science there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes which work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts Professors, Researchers and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the University and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation
  • Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2325—€2972 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1093788



Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht

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